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Loka (Skt., ‘world’).


The domains or regions which make up the cosmos. In origin there were three lokas (triloka), locations inhabited by beings appropriate to them: earth, atmosphere, and ‘the yonder world’ (of the gods, the sun, the moon, and the stars). But these were early related to domains pertaining to salvation (and its opposite). Thus svar, ‘sky’, is already synonymous in the Vedas with svarga, ‘heaven’, so that another triad was produced of svarga-loka, bhūmi- (earth), and pātāla- (underworld or hell).


The primary sense is analytic, in which loka is the ‘habitat’ of gods and human beings. In these contexts, loka is explained as all the perceptible world, i.e. all that which comes within the spheres of the senses. Loka in its cosmographic sense includes the entire cosmos. A lokadhātu is a smaller unit within the loka, a unit which may be described as a solar system. Thus, the loka consists of myriads of such solar systems. Therefore, in its immensity, the loka is unlimited. It is not possible, therefore, to reach the end of the loka by travelling and its immensity cannot be grasped by thinking either. Hence, lokacintā is one of four unthinkables according to Anguttara Nikāya (2. 80).

Buddhism also has its equivalent to the triloka of Hinduism (in Pāli, trailokya or traidhātuka). They are (i) kāmaloka, the domains of desire and attachment, including those of hell (naraka), humans, animals, the devas, and the asuras; (ii) rūpaloka, the domain of form without desire, the gods in the dhyāna heaven, attained through the four dhyānas; (iii) arūpaloka, the domain of formlessness. They may also be known as Kāmadhatu, etc.

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In Hindu religion, a term for a world or division of the universe. For general purposes, there are three lokas: heaven, earth, and hell, but different philosophical schools have enumerated seven or even eight lokas. The seven lokas are: Bhurloka (earth), Bhwar-loka (space between earth and the sun, inhabited by semi-divine beings), Swar-loka (region between the sun and polar star, the heaven of the god Indra), Mahar-loka (the abode of great sages and saints), Jana-loka (abode of the sons of the god Brahma), Tapar-loka (abode of other deities), and Satya-loka or Brahma-loka (abode of Brahma, where souls are released from the necessity of rebirth).

In Buddhism, there are three worldsor world systems named lokas: the kamaloka (world of desire), the rupaloka (world of matter or form), and the arupaloka (world without form). These terms have been adopted by the Theosophical Society.

(See also Lokaloka )

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Loṅkā ( Shah) (15th cent.). Jain reformer and influence on the Sthānakvāsi Gaccha (sect). Being convinced that the Jain scriptures (see AṆGA) gave no warrant for image worship, he set out on a path of rigorous reform, emphasizing personal asceticism. The term Sthānakvāsi means ‘those who reside in preaching halls’, emphasizing their avoidance of temples and images. Although few in number, they remain a part of Jain life to the present.

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Loka (Journal)

Former publication of the Naropa Institute whose two issues were concerned with Buddhism and its meditation techniques. Copies of these issues are available through The Naropa University's library at 2130 Arapahoe Ave., Boulder, CO 80302.